Surviving a Pipeline Explosion

All hell broke loose After The Explosion (or the day we survived a pipeline explosion)

A few years ago I was teaching chemistry at a local charter school.  During 3rd period the metal frame building I was teaching in was rocked.  ZA (one of the worst kids ever) looked up at me, his mouth a perfect O.  His two best friends were seated next to him at a lab table.  Seated behind him at another table were BH and BM.  Across the room were assorted students.

ZA screamed “Jesus is coming…”  He fell to his knees under the lab table and started confessing to some of the worst things I had ever heard.  He was slobbering and crying.  His two friends-KC and Little E fell to their knees in an attempt to “help him get right.”

The entire room was screaming.  BM (who was 6’3″) was attempting to climb into my arms yelling “Save Me Mama B.”  BH was attempting to get through me to get to the door.  Assorted kids were climbing under lab tables and onto lab tables…uncertain as to the safety of either position.

I held BM off with one arm, while trying to grab BH, while trying to hear the confession, while trying to assure that all my students were safe.  I yelled “Shut it down NOW.”  Every head (except the three praying) swung my way.  I said “Let me hear the noise, not you…”  I pulled off my shoes to feel the ground.  I announced “this is NOT an earthquake, it would have stopped by now.  It is not the rapture as you are all still here.  It is not a tornado.  So shut it down.”

WS (a brave football player)  screamed “it is 9/11 all over!”  prompting a major renewal of panic and prayer.

“No, why would someone blow up Podunk, La?  It is an explosion…I just don’t know what is going on. (the building was shaking and it sounded like WWWIII had begun) I tried to reason with WS

So, WS does the only illogical thing left to do…He RAN to the window and flung it open to see what was blowing up.  I yelled “White people , get away from the window!” At which BM started giggling and quit trying to climb me.  “What is your problem?  IF there are terrorists they will shoot you first… (we all knew there were no terrorists, so I yelled) “Wait, get back in the window!!!”  WS got out of the window looking sheepish.  BH quit trying to escape at that remark, perhaps realizing staying put was safer.

I got the room under control (after what felt like an eternity) just in time for the Fire Dept. to let us know that the pipeline across the road had exploded, killing one man.  School was dismissed and all students were safe.

Oh, yeah ZA and his two friends went to church that night and “got it right” after living through the day.

But, like I have always said…”Scare the Hell out of someone, and it will leave room for something worse.”  ZA was back to his usual (and worse)  within a week


The Poo that saved my life

This summer a huge pile of dog s$!t saved my life. 

I babysat for my daughter and her husband while they attended a wedding.  Their two kids were wonderful.  Their huge English Bulldog was not.  He rolled over to my car hunched up near the front door and took a huge dump.  Great…now I know that when they return I will not remember the poo. 

Sure enough, five hours later, I step in the pile.  So, I sat on the front seat and cleaned my shoe with a napkin.  I am too tired to walk back to the house.  I am so mad that I throw the napkin in their yard (passive-aggressive much?) and decide to drive home.  I don’t want to smell the poo, so I roll crack the front windows.  This means I must also turn off the radio because I hate the cavitation effect. 

I made it about three miles when I noticed a smell (other than the poo).  It was so dark I really could not see anything.  I slowed, sloooweed, then started forward.  I really notice a smell of fuel and brakes.  I was the first person on the scene of a fatal accident.  Drunk driver was mad the accident had occurred.  My best estimate is that in the time that I wasted cleaning my shoe the accident was occurring.  I would have been in that exact spot but for a poo.

There is a lot more to the story.  But…when they say “S$!t happens”  I want to add “for a reason.”

As an aside, I went back the next day and kissed that big ole slobbery bulldog right in the mouth.


And then the lightning struck

Speaking in the voice of HME “AND then the lightning struck..”  the following is as faithful as I can recreate after 10 years…

We had a gifted and talented teacher that would do some strange things.  She put KB into a large brown box (refrigerator size) and proceeded to kick the box while screaming.  His mom said that was a-ok.  I was worried about my safety.

About halfway into the year she decided she hated teaching gifted kids.  So she got a book of Tesselations and copied EACH AND EVERY page.  Every day we would do math that was unreasonable.  Everyday we prayed for release or even her arrest.  Finally, after months of torture (my mom tried to talk to her) I took matters into my own hands.  There was an unused bathroom off the gifted classroom.  There was a paper towel dispenser that looked to be the perfect hiding spot.  So, while she was out of the classroom, I folded all the hated booklets and placed them into the dispenser.  Sure, I had to open the dispenser without a key, it was difficult. 

For two days she searched high and low.  She threatened and had fits.  But for two days we were free of math that she could not explain.  On the third day we walked in and she announced that we would start over.  She had a very evil glint in her eye.  She had reprinted the book and added work to it.  My friends and I ran for the bathroom announcing that we would look for the booklets. 

Hands shaking, I opened the dispenser.  NO BOOKLETS!!! Just then, her shadow fell over our tiny bodies.  THEN the lightning struck…

“Obviously I have found the papers, now start over”  


Just because a girl can do it…

Speaking of AN, he had a mortal enemy he had earned in grade school.  He constantly teased and harassed a girl.  By the time they reached high school, he became the butt of many of her bon mots.  Due to the fact that she was of Above-Average-Intelligence, we had to explain many of them to AN.

One summer they both applied to a volunteer health-care program I taught at a local hospital.  I outlined the program to both of them carefully as follows:  You will work together, you will eat together, you all wear the same scrubs, You will all come to the same class after the day and take notes.  YOU WILL GET ALONG!  Both agreed as they both wanted the opportunity.

First week, all went swimmingly.  Second week, all was beginning to unravel.  Third week, AN decided to spend all his days in the BHU (behavioral health unit) with the patients. He thought he could smoke and play cards.  I was trying not to notice him.  His mortal enemy (hereinafter referred to as HME) encouraged his behavior.  One day he hugged one of the patients (I think at HME’s  urging).  HME then informed AN that the patient had scabies.  AN was all “So?…He had shots.”  Had to explain scabies. 

Finally, we reach week four.  No one is dead.  Sniping has escalated.  I am hoping I live through the exchanges.  A knock comes on the door during class toward the end of the week.  One of the directors wants to talk to me.  (Thank God, it is not about those two)  I hear AN announce “HEY, ya’ll know how girls can pull off a bra without taking off her shirt?” Yes, this was an attempt to gain cool points and humiliate HME.   I think well… I am talking to the director, maybe I won’t see anything

I turned to hear HME pronounce “Well, AN, it’s shirt down and pants up”  AN’s left arm was somewhere in the vicinity of his right ear. His right arm (against all odds) appeared to be dislocated and floating near his forehead. His pants were falling off, his undershirt appeared to be wrapping around him like bandages on a mummy.    Again I was left trying to keep a straight face…while HME was chortling. 

Which is why when an UTTERLY IMPOSSIBLE thing happens my spouse always says “Ah, trapped in a scrub suit.” 


“Ear Cancer”

AN came back from his weekend with an ear that looked like it had been put through a paper-shredder.  He came through the door 35 minutes late with blood, sweat, and tears.  I thought a badger had attacked him in the parking lot.  Which is strange as we did not have a badger problem.

“Dear Lord, AN, what has happened to you now?” I asked  

With a ragged sob, he said “Ear…”  

“Yes, I see your ear is red, purple, and bleeding. I also see snot and tears. What I don’t see is a reason for what has happened to you”

AN finally mumbled “I have ear cancer”

“DEAR LORD…what doctor did you go see?” I yelled

“Didn’t see a doctor…” AN is still mumbling

“You have ear cancer…(nod, nod)…You didn’t see a doctor? (nod,nod)   HOW do you know you have ear cancer?” I really ask the question, I am not sure I want the answer

“My dad said I would get ear cancer…and I did.” AN is a 17 year old basket case, crying in front of his teammates now.

“AN, what did you do? Why did you develop ‘ear cancer’? AND how did you dad diagnose this condition?’  I am wanting to laugh. Can’t laugh…

“My dad told me not to pierce my ear.  You remember I went to ‘Vegas with my brother?  I pierced my ear.”  The words are now spilling out of AN in a gout “I hid it for two months.  Then, this morning I got up and felt a knot in my ear.  IT WAS EAR CANCER!  So, I mashed and mashed and mashed until some stuff came out of my ear.  Do you think I am going to die?”

“AN, unless ignorance is a death sentence, you will live.  You basically just ripped scar tissue out of your ear.” I was trying to talk as calmly as possible.

“YES, BUT AM I GOING TO DIE???”  AN pants out this question.

“Yes, someday.  But, I don’t think it is today.”  


When You Don’t Win Them All

Adam would have been 35 this year. 

When I met Adam, I hoped to save him from his issues.  His grandmother (with whom he lived) had been my librarian.  She and I talked about Adam frequently at school.  I wanted to save him for her, heck I wanted to save him for me. 

During his senior year my principal sent Adam and about 20 others to Angola for a tour of the facility. It is the Louisiana equivalent of the Scared Straight Program.   Many other schools in the state sent students for the same tour.  An inmate on death row was speaking and pointed out Adam and his gal pal.  Out of all the hundred of students that day he said “Within one year, you will be where I am now…or you will be dead.”  Adam’s gal became so afraid that she broke up with him that day.  I hoped that would get his attention.

Adam did not listen.  He targeted a young lady two grades below him and showered her with attention (well…and drugs).   KG fell for Adam and his bag of drugs. KG followed Adam’s lead.   She walked the walk and talked the talk of the tough kid.  One Sunday morning a few weeks later a student called my home crying to tell me that Adam had a wreck and that KG was dead.  Adam had flipped his car upside down in a deep drainage ditch, killing KG instantly.  Adam was in the vehicle for 8 hours with her before daylight revealed the wreck.  He died a few hours after the emergency personnel cut him from his seat belt. 

A small school allows you to bond with students, parents, and grandparents.  A small school allows you to ‘rejoice with those that rejoice.’   A small school does not allow you to forget you don’t win them all. 


That’s what sheets are for…

Once upon a time, I taught a fairy princess.  Ok, this student was a fairy princess to her father (the doctor) and her mother. For the first 1/2 of the school year, I attempted to get the fairy princess to be good to those around her.

Two weeks before Christmas break, the good knight (victim) I paired with the fairy princess tried his hardest to placate her during lab.  As only a knight could he valiantly attempted to melt the ice around the princess.  Finally realizing that she loved to talk about herself he asked what she would be receiving for Christmas.  “A new car, duh…” was her reply.  Finally, I decided she was thawing when I heard her ask “what are YOU getting???”   The good knight said that he was getting a spray-in-bed-liner.  The princess put on her haughtiest look and said “Duh, that’s what sheets are for.”

It took me a good five minutes to school my features into a neutral expression as he explained a bed-liner was for a pickup truck.  

To this day, when I know I am teaching a fairy princess…I hear “that’s what sheets are for”